Check out the Summer/Fall 2023 edition of the CHD Magazine! If you're looking to be educated and encouraged with many inspirational stories related to Congenital Heart Disease, then this is well worth your read. Two of our team members, Nicholas Hoyt & Annalise Hoyt, have crafted an article on page 49 of the magazine titled 'The Traveling Doctor'. Thanks so much to CHD Magazine for allowing us to tell this incredible story!
The Traveling Doctor:
'In the bustling streets of Da Nang, Vietnam, a determined pediatric cardiologist known as the Traveling Doctor found himself at a crossroads. He brought the van he was driving to a halt and parked on the shoulder of an already narrow street. Feeling defeated, he cradled his head in his hands. Just beyond the city center and fresh from the corridors of Hoan My hospital, he contemplated the daunting journey that lay ahead that day.
The task at hand was immense, traveling hundreds of miles to reach a rural school, nestled within the Vietnamese countryside. His mission was clear—to screen students for congenital heart disease (CHD) using an echo machine. But as he gazed at the miles of unforgiving dirt roads, chaotic traffic, and swarms of scooters that defined the landscape, his optimism wavered. In a country where hundreds of thousands of hours of life are lost prematurely each year due to CHD, the life of at least one child if not more, depended on his timely arrival with an intact echo machine.
The challenge was twofold. The hospital's bulky echo machine, reminiscent of a refrigerator in size, was hardly suited for the bumpy journey. Similar trips in the past resulted in structural and technical damages, rendering any screening efforts futile. The doctor found himself in a dilemma. Risking further damage was out of the question; repairing these machines required specialized engineering expertise he couldn't access outside of the hospital. Regrettably, he turned the van back toward the hospital, his heart heavy with the realization that some children would continue to suffer as a result.
Not long afterward, the Traveling Doctor’s path crossed with a team of medical professionals from the United States, representatives of the non-profit organization Healing Hearts Vietnam (HHV). Their collaboration, combined with the support of General Electric, was a turning point. They learned of the doctor's struggle and generously donated a $10,000 handheld echo machine—a device slightly larger than an iPhone but just as powerful as the original echo machine. This machine was revolutionary, capable of screening for the same congenital heart diseases as its bulkier counterpart but without the size and damage constraints. For the Traveling Doctor, this technological marvel was a beacon of hope.
The impact of this small piece of technology was profound. The arduous journey that once demanded a large van and an entire team of operators was replaced by the nimbleness of a motorbike. With the pocket-sized echo machine securely tucked away, the doctor zipped through miles of rugged terrain. In a single year, armed with this compact machine, the Traveling Doctor and his team conducted thousands of heart ultrasounds on school-aged children across Vietnam. A once-daunting mission evolved into a monumental success, revealing CHD cases that would have otherwise likely gone undetected. The statistics of his efforts spoke volumes. The number of screenings surged from a mere one hundred children annually to thousands annually.
This translated to a significant increase in the ability to identify children in dire need of surgery. Healing Hearts Vietnam consistently finds itself deeply moved by this collaborative journey. It is efforts like these that serve as the driving force behind our organization's unwavering commitment to fulfilling our mission: ensuring that every child and their family in Vietnam have access to life-saving cardiovascular surgery.
In Vietnam, the burden of CHD is a stark reality. Medical resources are few, and the gaps in care can be significant. Despite some progress in establishing pediatric hospitals, the scarcity of critical personnel like nurses and cardiac specialists has persisted, especially in rural areas. A mere 50 pediatric cardiologists and 20 pediatric cardio
vascular surgeons serve the entire nation. The paucity of life-saving equipment —from ambulances to echo machines—intensifies the challenges. Navigating this landscape remains an ordeal. Patients embark on a convoluted journey, transferring between hospitals at various tiers, leading to delayed diagnoses and compromised prognoses. These deficiencies underscore the pressing need for concentrated efforts to bridge these gaps in healthcare disparities.
The Traveling Doctor's story was one of tenacity and transformation, a testament to the power of collaboration. With portable technology in hand, he redefined the trajectory of heart disease screening in rural Vietnam, transforming it from an improbable feat to a resounding source of hope. The journey is far from over, but it is marked by a renewed sense of hope —a belief that dedicated individuals and organizations like Healing Hearts Vietnam can help pave the way for a healthier, more equitable future for needy Vietnamese children and their families. To learn more about our mission and join us in our endeavor, please visit healingheartsvietnam.com'.
~Nicholas Hoyt & Annalise Hoyt
CHD MAGAZINE. (2021). The Heart Collection. https://www.theheartcommunitycollection.com/magazine
HotPot. (2023, August 24). “Doctor riding a motorcycle in rural area of Vietnam” AI-generated image. https://hotpot.ai/s/art-generator/8-2RAcfCkqYGIAHwW